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Oregon Family Magazine

This is Your Year!

08/31/2022 ● By Kelli Matthews
Forget New Year's Eve, September my favorite time to set new (school) year resolutions. There's nothing like fresh notebooks, perfectly sharp pens and organized calendars… it's beautiful!

This year we found some back-to-school support that might not have made the supply list but will help you keep those new school year resolutions focused.

Calendars and Planners 

Busy kids, busy parents and families make calendars (yes, plural) crucial to staying on top of everyone's coming and going. Experts recommend having a day-to-day view and a way to see the big picture.

The Essential Calendar is a big-picture-view planner. The vertical calendar shows a season at a time and lets you see how everyone's schedule dovetails (or doesn't). I used Essential Calendar's washi tape and sticky notes to color code my boys' late summer and fall schedules. Thanks to the minimal style and pretty wood hanging accessories, it's not a calendar you want to hide.

Shifting to a short-term view, the Jaimee Campanella Family Calendar gives you a writable

surface with a two-week view. Jaimee is a time management expert who couldn't find the right solution for her family's schedule – so she built it! I love the Family Calendar because it's highly visual. It gives everyone an eye on what's happening in the family and (fingers crossed) relieves some of the mental weight for mom of managing everyone's schedule.

Learning to keep a planner is a big-time life skill that it feels like we're always trying to teach and reinforce. Our favorites are Order Out of Chaos and Mindy Lockard's Leadership Planner.

With a busy teen at home, we've found that the Order Out of Chaos calendar is organized well for him to track his classes and his afterschool activities. Most planners don't fit an older student's needs or help them to compartmentalize and manage their time. This calendar does.

When that same teen was planning for the first finals week of high

school last year, we called Mindy Lockard. She helped him create a system to prepare for each project and test without having it jammed up at the last minute. Because if there's anything teen boys are good at, it's procrastinating. Her leadership work with students from 4th grade through high school helps them get organized and also helps them learn to PLAN. That's a whole skill. Mindy teaches leadership workshops in Portland and Eugene and just released the Power Planner for all students with built-in organizational tools and social skill + confidence boosting QR videos for teens. I can't wait to get my 5th grader started building these essential skills.  

Geared Up 

The gear for back-to-school is as varied as the kids who carry it. A new backpack is usually a must, though. Wanderwild backpacks are great for the preschool and elementary school set. Wanderwild has adorable styles like The Wanderer and The Explorer that are the right size for smaller frames, and The Adventurer is perfect for upper elementary grades. My 5th grader was happy to see it wasn't so big as to be uncomfortable but still fit all his supplies.

If you need a larger backpack for older kids or college students, the GotBag is one of our

favorites. Made from recycled plastic, every bag is super durable, and it holds a ton (we took it as a carry-on bag for travels this summer). However, it's still comfortable and easy to carry.

A nice, well-organized binder beats a plastic version that will fray and fall apart over the year. CaseIt Binders come in several styles that combine a 2-inch binder with the ability to carry a laptop, iPad or other tablet, notebooks and more. Quite a few types also come with a built-in shoulder strap so you can ditch the backpack. They're durable and with a price point that won't break your budget:

Everything from Kicks by Sammy is fun, a little funky and feels like you’re – just like your kids.

With more kids carrying laptops to school, a high-quality laptop sleeve is a must. You can also get pencil cases, backpacks and notebooks to match.  

At last count, we lost two sweatshirts, a coat, a lunch box and at least one pair of shoes in 4th grade. How one loses their shoes is a mystery! I regret not adding Mabel's Labels to our back-to-school list sooner. These labels are cute, creative and – even better - extremely durable. They're laundry, dishwasher and microwave safe – and they're 100% guaranteed. Hint: take a peek at their fundraising program; my son's school does this, and the school earns a little on every purchase.

An unusual but creative gear idea comes from Worky Work Station. The Worky is a genuinely

portable workspace for how kids work. It's a workstation in a box! My kids have desks in their rooms, but sometimes they like to work from the kitchen table or the patio, and I always dread their work "nests" in the middle of the room. But this clever idea ensures all their stuff is ready to go (and easy to put away).

What's For Lunch

Lunch planning… ugh. Am I right?

But nothing beats a great PBJ. Thankfully we found Americano Peanut Butter. My family is peanut-butter-picky, but they all love the Americano PB in all three flavors. The classic flavor is a nearly everyday part of lunches and snacks at our house and the Cinnamon Honey and Choco Blanco are a little sweeter (but not too sweet) for an afternoon treat.

Make lunches a little more colorful and avoid one-time-use plastic bags with reusable sandwich and snack bags. Made from durable, washable fabric, Roll'eats come in a range of sizes and styles that are easily cleaned and used again tomorrow.

The Dearest Grey silicone bento boxes are perfect for packing lunch with finger foods and small bites. The boxes fit perfectly in lunch boxes and they're freezer, microwave and dishwasher


Carry it all with the inspirational messages on a Kids Craft lunch box from the LeadHER collection. The lunch boxes are an empowering reminder to girls everywhere that they can define their own path and make a difference in the world. (While you're there, look at the unique craft kits.)  

Feel Good, Look Good

Why not put a little swagger in your kid's step? A back-to-school outfit from StereoType Kids is just the way to do it. StereoType apparel is gender free – but not free of style. I love the attention to detail, and our preschool reviewer was definitely feeling himself with the gold-tipped lapels on the blazer. These togs are beautiful quality and built to last. 

Milestones are worth celebrating and that's easy to do with Mad Paperie's Back to School Party Flags. You can order them customized for your kiddo's grade or with a general "first day of school" message. They're perfect for those requisite first-day photos in a flower bouquet or a gift basket. 

Cultures and traditions are also worth celebrating. I love this wall hanging from Birdy

Boutique that gives kids a sense of the incredible diversity in our world. Perfect for a kid's room or a classroom, it's a beautiful way to recognize and celebrate people.